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depression, Family, Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Ritual

January 25, 2016

By Kate Fries

When my husband travels, my sons and I have pancakes for dinner.

It’s a ritual that transcends space and time. We’ve repeated it in different spaces as my kids have grown up.

I am listening to iTunes in my kitchen, bopping along to Rilo Kiley. It could be 2006 or it could be 2015. In 2006 we are in a suburb of Chicago, my kids play on the floor while I measure ingredients and wash fruit and the cat snakes her way around my ankles. We have just returned from a late summer walk. We talk about the “yucky mushrooms” we saw growing on neighborhood lawns and our upcoming trip to Disneyland. I am tired in this moment, dreading the witching hour without my husband to tag team with me, but we are happy.

Now, in 2015, we’re in Central California and my kids can help make dinner but they’re just as likely to be found lounging in front of the TV. The meal is the same, their requests are the same.

(“Can you put blueberries in the batter? Can we have whipped cream on top?”)

There was another house, another city, in between Chicago and here. There was a too-small kitchen and a window that looked out on the rosemary that grew abundantly in the backyard. I could watch my kids ride their scooters on the deck while I mixed and poured and flipped and sang along with the radio. That was the house I loved, despite its too-small kitchen and aging appliances. It broke my heart to leave.

But here we are in a new city, a new house. I grieve the loss of those former lives and years. I try to embrace what we’ve been given here. I try to heal myself as I come out of a fog that has lasted too long. There’s a dog now, instead of a cat, and I am working outside of the home so these evenings of solo parenting are more somehow more chaotic than they were when my kids were needy toddlers. My kids don’t chatter about Thomas and his friends or roll their Matchbox cars around my feet, they’re absorbed in handheld games, they’re reading Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. They talk about algebra and avoid talking about girls. And I am a little older and a little sadder than I was in Chicago.

I know I will miss these days, too.

I plate our pancakes, do a little shimmy in time to the Rilo Kiley song coming from my computer’s speakers. I sing along to the part I like best:

“You’ll be a real good listener

You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave

You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful

You’ll be happy.”

Caught up in the music, I raise my spatula in the air, triumphant. I sing across time to my Chicago self and my Bay Area self in those other kitchens and tell them all of this will be okay.

My happiness has always seemed precarious and hard-won when others seem to have it abundance. Where we are right now—enjoying this exact moment in my newest kitchen, the one I never asked for but got anyway—is a victory. If my kids are listening to the lyrics I sing at all, I hope they understand I am trying to be my best self for them.

The pancakes are gluten free because that’s how we roll these days. We’re out of syrup tonight so we top our pancakes with Reddi-wip. Things are different and things are the same. Both can be good.Kate_Fries-DSC_5081

Kate Fries lives in Central California with her husband, tween sons, a labradoodle puppy, and a cat who came with the house. A full-time journalist at a mid-size California newspaper, her work has also appeared in Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Mamalode, and Club Mid. She can often be found running and listening to comedy podcasts.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

depression, Guest Posts, Yoga Classes, Young Voices

Sometimes Smoothies and Yoga Aren’t Enough

January 20, 2016

By Emma Faesi Hudelson

I suffer from depression and lately, my mat has felt like a life raft. Not in a “yoga is saving my life” way. Not even in a “my practice is the only thing keeping me sane” way. It’s a life raft because I feel like I’ve been shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean, and if I don’t hang on to my raft, I’m going to drown.

Depression feels like roadkill looks. Unless I’m in the middle of one of my sobbing spells, I may look OK, but internally, I’m flat and messy as that raccoon I saw on my way to the grocery store this morning, all bared teeth and gaping guts.

When my brain gets like this, my practice changes. Sometimes, it becomes the only bright spot in my days. I look forward to it, even if everything else sucks. My mat is a place of refuge. I may not know if I’ll make it through my day without snapping at my husband or crying because I got hummus on my shirt, but I know I can inhale, exhale, and take a goddamn vinyasa.

More commonly, practice becomes a chore when I’m depressed. It’s another dreaded task on in infinite list. When brushing my teeth feels like an impossible effort, spending ninety minutes jumping around, folding, and twisting seems laughable. Even on those days, I’m sometimes able to force my way through it all, and I usually feel better for it, even if my body is so knotted with emotion that I can barely touch my toes.

The physical part of yoga does help. Working up a sweat means that exercise-induced endorphins release into my bloodstream, giving me a temporary mood boost. Breathing deeply soothes my nervous system. Backbends energize my emotions. The three closing lotuses give me a chance to consciously open a channel to God.

I know all this, but sometimes, I still can’t force myself to practice. Those days are the worst. Not only do I feel so bleak inside that I’m praying I get T-boned by a semi on my way to work, but I can’t do the one thing that I know will make me feel better. It’s hard not to beat myself up. Continue Reading…

Christmas, depression, Eating/Food, Guest Posts

Winter

December 18, 2015

By Nicole Gibbs

I pulled my dirty, fifteen year old mom van into the farthest corner of the parking lot. The same spot where years ago I’d waited for my connect, and later where I’d waited for people who were willing to buy my bad dope at a jacked up price. I turned the car off and glanced around, those old instincts on full alert. I reached down and brought the brown paper bag into my lap. I pulled out the greasy “Siracha Burger,” the box of curly fries. I made sure no one was looking and I tried to ignore the tendrils of guilt that teased at the edges of my consciousness as I bit into the spicy, salty burger.

Halfway through the guilt won out for a few moments and I paused, taking some deep breaths, my throat tight with food.

What was I doing?

I was a vegetarian!

I was on a diet!

Oh jeez. Quit being so uptight, I told myself. It’s one goddamn burger. It’s not the end of the world.

I didn’t want to keep eating it. I hated myself more with each bite. But it tasted so good! I couldn’t stop.

What was wrong with me?

What was the difference between this and the drugs? I mean, of course I wasn’t going to abandon my kids and go live on the streets so that I could eat Jack in the Box all the time. That would be ridiculous. But really, at the core, what was the difference? I used to sit in this same parking lot, watching the same city bus roll by, the Mexican families sitting at the Mc Donald’s across the street with too many kids running around, the same dirty street, the same fear of being seen, the same war going on inside of me, the same self-loathing afterwards. On a scientific level it’s all the same too, I suppose. I put this stuff into my body that’s really bad for me and it lights up all those dopamine receptors and I feel good for a minute and then I feel bad and want more. Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Grief, Guest Posts, Miscarriage

After The Miscarriage: A Letter to My BFF about my PTSD

December 14, 2015

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses the trauma that can come with miscarriage.

By Jessica van Alderwerelt

There is so much I’ve wanted to say but haven’t been saying because it is hard for me to talk to you about what I’m going through, writing seemed easier. There are a few important things I have to communicate to you that have been going on because not saying them, I think, has created expectations that I am doing better than I actually am.

In hopes that you’ll understand me better, I’m going to share some pretty dark shit with you that I’ve been working on in therapy. I’m chipping away at making sense of my trauma but it’s a process that takes time and I will never be the same as I was before. I wanted to die. I wanted to stop the pain so much I was considering killing myself to make it stop. It was the scariest. Not only was it the immediate trauma related to my pregnancy loss but it dredged up so much past trauma, like my rape and my parent’s divorce, and my mom’s cancer (and my cancer scare), and my dad being absent for all those years. Trauma (and PTSD) is like that. It brings up all the stuff that felt the same, every time I felt robbed, scared for my life, abandoned, etc. Some days I physically cannot get out of bed because there is 2,000 pounds of weight bearing down on me. I can’t lift my arms or head. If I don’t have plans or obligations and no one is watching, I literally do not get out of bed to eat or shower or see the sun. Often for days at a time. I am debilitated.

Here is something I wrote in therapy. Maybe it’ll give you some insight into what I’m going through:

I wasn’t supposed to get too excited about my positive pregnancy test or tell anyone until I was sure and because so much can happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. For me, I experienced 12 weeks of sweating every night, hugging my belly, dreaming about my new future, celebrating to myself that I was finally pregnant.

I was so excited about what motherhood would bring– making plans for vacations to Iceland (where I honeymooned) with my little Olive and her daddy. I bought things for her room– my favorite being a beautiful, small hand-carved and painted wooden elephant that opens with a little latch securing a tiny hiding spot. She would have it on her dresser as a baby with a love note from me in it, she’d hide her diary key in it as a kid, put it on her desk as a teen to store her forbidden lipstick, and she’d move it with her to her dorm room to stash some pot– she would always have Ellie the elephant as a tether to home. Continue Reading…

depression, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A 15 Year Old Girl Reminds Us: “I Am Not My Mental Illness.’

December 11, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU!* Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here. Please share this essay as I feel it is tremendously important that we begin to shatter the stigma of mental health. Tweet, FB it, send to a friend, Instagram it. Whatever you can do. We are very proud of Giana!

By Giana Masso

When we think about mental illness, we too often picture the horror movie images: straight jackets, padded rooms, electroshock therapy, insane asylums.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why these portrayals in horror movies are entertaining, and chilling. We look at these characters as monsters, because they’re often violent, delusional, or dangerous in general. However, this caricature of mental illness is not entirely harmless in its value as entertainment.

What we see in the media changes the way we perceive real experiences. For example, if someone constantly sees news reports on how violent pit bulls are, it would be easy to make assumptions and develop a fear of pit bulls. This applies to the way we discuss mental illness as well. We only talk about mental illness in a time of tragedy. It makes these illnesses into characters, almost. Depression is associated with acting unreasonably, Anxiety is associated with rushed decision making. Bipolar disorders are associated with displays of moody, angsty reactions. We don’t see people with mental illnesses as people anymore: we see them as the illnesses themselves. Continue Reading…

death, depression, Grief, Guest Posts

Dead Space

November 15, 2015

By Betty Jo Buro

I chew the inside of my right cheek while I loop from closet to suitcase.  Jeans on the bottom.  Pajamas next.  I’ll save the dress for last. What a relief it would be to sob and fling my clothes in a twisted heap.  To keen, like the Irish women in the novels I used to read, to work my way through an entire box of tissues, soaking them with tears and snot.  But my mother, whose funeral I’m packing for, had no appreciation for spectacle, and has passed this trait on to me.  Perhaps it’s because she had four teenage daughters at one time, and intuitively knew, that if allowed, girl drama plus high levels of hormones could combine and possibly blow the roof right off of our house.  Our upset was never rewarded with her attention, and thus suppressed. And now, when I could really use a bout of hysteria, I can’t even cry. Instead, I run my tongue over the shredded skin on the inside of my mouth.  I carefully count out the appropriate pairs of underwear, roll and tuck them into the corners, filling the dead space, the way my mother taught me to pack.  The eulogy is placed in the carry-on.  Just in case.

There are shoe issues.  Emma, my oldest, has been charged with carrying her father’s dress shoes in her luggage.  He is working in Missouri and meeting us in Boston. She has plenty of room, but resents the idea of those big shoes in with her things.  Alice, my younger daughter, disapproves of my shoe choice.  She’s scandalized, actually, by my blue Louise et Cie closed-toe sling backs with the 2 and ¾ inch heel.  They match the design in my dress perfectly, and even though they’ve had two sleepovers at the shoe repair shop to  stretch the toe-box, I love them.

“You can’t wear those shoes to a funeral,” Alice says.

“Why not?”

“You just can’t,” she says, shaking her head.  I know she’s referring to the pointy toe, the ankle strap.  She thinks they are too sexy. She throws her hands up in a gesture that says, Mothers.  They never listen, and walks away. I turn the offending footwear so they are facing in, heel to toe, and place them in my luggage.

The next day, I wrestle the girls out of slumber and into the car for the long drive to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Twenty minutes into the ride, Emma’s voice from the back seat, “Mom, I forgot my sandals.”  She means the ones she needs to go with her dress for the service. If we go back, we will miss our flight. I keep driving.  Inside my mouth, I taste the metallic tang of blood.

***

I am three days into my new routine of waking an hour before the sun rises to meditate, pray and write, when I call someone an asshole.   I am walking my dog Misty, and we have paused at the top of our street, under the shade of a Banyan tree to greet our neighbor-friends, Karen and McDuff.  I have been up for so long the day feels solid, as established as the blacktop under my sneakers, and it’s only eight am.   The orange grove across from us and the remnants of night-blooming jasmine carry an almost sickly sweet scent through the air, already thick with heat. Continue Reading…

depression, Divorce, Guest Posts, Marriage, Relationships

Construction Season

November 14, 2015

By Patti Carlyle

Summer seems an incongruent time to ponder life’s harder questions. Long and brutal winters in the Rust Belt present a more fitting time to look inward, everything thickly coated in Suicide Gray. Thoughts deepen and even darken, and it makes sense. By contrast the warm, sparkling days of Cleveland’s early summer are arguably the most beautiful, demanding a certain carefree hubris. But instead of fish tacos on patios, gin and tonics, afternoon sex or campfire lazing, I slid into a dizzying circular conversation with myself. Depression or divorce?

Orange barrels rush past the window, a translucent blur of stout, gaudy grandmas. Squinting into the distance looking for some broad blinking arrow, I try to predict lane changes. Sit up straight, hands at ten and two. The speedometer needle sinks left and I sharpen my focus. Rumble strips hyphenate the road mid-lane, a startling warning of a new traffic pattern. A driver for over 20 years, I still tense up in construction zones, still roll my eyes when the barrels begin gossiping in medians each spring.

And as the work begins each summer, I find myself muttering ‘didn’t we just do this?’

Depression or divorce? For two summers, this alliterative question worried a groove into my journals and tortured my therapist. Amused at my binary thinking and familiar with my white knuckle grip on a fanned deck of pessimistic options, he suggested that I refrain from applying intellect and instead feel my way through. Deep thought and analysis might not save my marriage, and I may still need clinical intervention. Worst case? Both. That’s how I saw it: terrible options all.

Predictive pessimism doesn’t protect me from much, though. I need to do before I know much of anything. Lowering myself into the tides of experience, sometimes the water is fine and frolicking like a four-year-old is the only appropriate response. But sometimes the relentless and punishing waves are frigid and teeming with jellyfish. Bystanders can hear me screaming from shore.

Ending my marriage to experience divorce is an obviously myopic move. Eyeballs deep in the struggle, I flailed and clawed for a cognitive buoy. The goal was simple: tease out which was cause and which effect. Is my marriage foundationally broken, resulting in situational depression? Or is my fundamental problem clinical, my relationship merely its casualty?

The gaudy grandmas have waddled off. Concrete lane dividers stand shoulder to shoulder in their place. The effect is menacingly close. My phone is face down on the console and I poke a finger at the dash, silencing the radio. Any distraction could have me trailing sparks along the barricade wall or sliding onto the gravelly shoulder. Adjust the mirrors and glance back.

I started circling the drain a few years ago. The well-received launch of my alternative health practice had me so certain. This was my calling. I might have been suspicious when the aspects of entrepreneurial adventure I enjoyed most turned out to be designing the website and writing the blog. After shuttering the business in 2012, I tumbled into a shame vortex. Struggling to make sense of how I had misread myself so terrifically, I cocooned. It took months of shame and denial before finally deciding to close, abandoning years of training, the encouragement of friends and family and a lot of invested capital. Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Gratitude, Guest Posts, writing

Navels Are Natural

November 8, 2015

By Caroll Sun Yang

Do you, you feel like I do?                                                                                           

Do you, you feel like I do? — Peter Frampton

Being an artist is like being a wrung out rag, making and mopping up messes, bunched up in the corner, oft hung to dry, wearing history on our sleeves, smelling of our own mammal ripeness and occasionally being thrown in with the real wash. We who soak in alphabets, images, and sounds know that all arts demand that we uphold a fundamental oath to act as shaman, seers, provocateurs, infants terrible, politicians, romancers, therapists, charmers, jokesters, witches, pioneers, maniacs, hookers… and all of this sexily to boot. If we fail at these tasks, oh arduous hours flecked with blessed golden play, then our lives will seem utterly wasted. Our creative callings failed. Leaks in the hot tin roofs. Ancient toilets stopped up. Lives less lived. Muzzled. We are about to blow!

If I seem melodramatic and insecure, it is because I am. In this lowly state, I let my mind wander off to pasture. Chewing the cud, metaphorical green juice dribbling down my shirtfront, prostrate in bed, covered in ancient fawn quilting à la Salvation Army, cats fighting at my feet like warm lumps of tangling frisk. My gut consists of Mr. Pibb carbonation dancing with a cheap chile relleno burrito all laced with psychotropics. I burn. I feel strong. Full of jitterbugging ideas jostling into place. Visions. Sounds. Alphabets. Maybe my aura is finally lava.

I am typing on a cellular QWERTY pad, words tumble after one another on an eerily lit screen sized smaller than a maxi-pad (great metaphors abound), my skull and brain propped up on two pillows, growing heavier with each word, double chin at attention, heartbeat slowing to a meditative rate, legs like dumb sticks. My life has been reduced to thumb typing essays on the same devices that boisterous MTV and Tyra Banks reality show participants showily make use of. Their devices announce: “Meet at the holy hell wrecking ball platform wearing sneakers and bathing suits at 8 a.m.! Get ready for a raunchy, mad blast! Today is elimination day.” Or “Be fierce! Today you will walk the runway for anonymous couture designer, winner will be treated to anonymous jeweler’s jewels and full body massages!” My humble cell announces no such sport. At 8 a.m. I am usually shuttling children to school, teeth unclean, sunglasses hiding yesterday’s raccoon eyes, donning paint splattered tee and torn pajama bottoms, breasts swinging free, naked feet, throttling through any drive-through Starbucks. My text messages read like this, “Where r u?” to which I might respond with “Ded.” Or on a decent day, “Writing. XO.”

I run with a pack that the uninitiated might describe as “eccentric” or “off” or “bat shit crazy”. We artists do not pace in straight sober lines, solving problems like accountants, optometrists or soldiers do. We professional imaginers pace the ground raw in drunken lines, darting in and out of reality, occasionally leaping from the sheer thrill of “breaking through”. We inventors, theorists, artists, writers, musicians… struggle, but in the name of what exactly? Exactly.

We are generally benign, somewhat opinionated, obsessive nerds. While the universe propels forward, infinite events occurring simultaneously, we feel caught in its sway. It is our job to mark time/space in unique ways while attempting to engage others. Sometimes we will fail at this; many hours will be lost to intense examinations of life, but some hours we will make magic- magnificently warping perceptions. On days when I feel especially wrung out, halted and alone- I seek out my fatherly path pavers. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Beating Fear with a Stick, depression, Fear, Guest Posts

Passion

November 6, 2015

By Alexis Donkin

Passion is painful. When I first discovered it, I cried, like that time I watched Hotel Rwanda, and walked back to my dorm room in shock. Safe in my room, I locked the door, held onto my chair, and collapsed, in a crumpled heap, weeping until there were no tears left. I think it was hours – hours of weeping.

Yes, passion was too painful. It was depressing. It was too much that I ran from the whole enterprise. It was better to feel nothing than to feel passion. So I doused my flame. I choked out its air, and I drew. I painted. I sculpted. I avoided the news. I ignored anything real around me, because if I didn’t, I was at risk of sinking into a deep pit.

For a long time I was just pieces of previously burnt, compressed, wood. Cold. Charcoal untouched by heat. Not yet fuel, everything was superficial. Everything was simple, and I was easily swayed by ideas. Without principle, without a standard of measure, it was easy to float about, carelessly moving from one place to the next. Until time caught up with me, forcing the issue. Time forced me to confront myself.

I was thirty. I had misgivings, but I had that intense need to breed. The kind of need that suffuses your entire body, that comes up at awkward times in awkward places, that persists like an aching hunger. And the hunger sharpened horribly any time I saw a pregnant body – a beautiful baby. Even an ugly baby. And the worst was a father and child.

I would see that, and my body would destroy every thoughtfully constructed, logical argument against parenthood. It would counter the financial hardship, the question of health care, of college several decades later. It would counter, roaring, with the most fundamental raw uterine bellow – BABIES!

The first chance we got, we made good. The second I felt it was possible, I aban Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Owning It!, Sexuality

The Coming Out Post

June 23, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Renée Greiner.

I wanted this to be eloquent and researched with facts and figures to legitimize my pain. I wanted a weekend of three days to write this post to y’all but it can’t wait any longer. I’m in a 14 month program at Johns Hopkins University for nursing; and I’m being inundated with information and rules and patients with cardiovascular disease comorbid with obesity that beg some real empathy, the kind of empathy that everyone deserves and is lacking in our fast-paced system.

I thought at one point that yoga could heal it; or that I didn’t need therapy; or I didn’t need support; or my ingrained homophobia would just poof disappear. Because it seems so antithetical to be carrying around this deep shame when so many states and people are starting to finally realize that we aren’t child molesters.

And for the record, I used that term on purpose. I’m sick to my bones with the fact that even a teeny, tiny or maybe a bigger portion than I know associate me and the LGBT people I know with people who do awful things.

I am gay. I’ve toyed with the word bisexual because my sexuality is somewhat fluid, and I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years or so; and it just seems so nice to have a partner who can impregnate you, and then have a child who resembles you both.

But really I’ve toyed with word bisexual to avoid the bigoted stuff that lesbians face in large. The stuff that doesn’t go away if you chose to love the same gender. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Truth, Video, Vulnerability

The Truth About Depression. No Bullshit.

May 11, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

 

By Jen Pastiloff

I just got back from leading a beautiful retreat for Mother’s Day. I feel hung over today. From love. Is that even a thing? It is now. I’m in bed trying to process it all. One of my favorite writers came, Christa Parravani, who is a dear friend. She wrote the book Her. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it highly. I also partnered with Christy Turlington Burns’ Every Mother Counts and gave away a free spot. It was a remarkable and heart-mending weekend. It is truly a great honor to support Every Mother Counts.

At one point, we were talking about depression and I mentioned an essay I had written last year on my own depression and how I had gone off of my anti-depressants. I said to the group, “I wrote this essay about going off my meds. I’m back on now and I haven’t written about it because it’s no one’s business.” It’s not. I am not ashamed of it but it’s not my job to alert the media of everything. So I said that and then decided that maybe I should make a video about it. Who knew my videos were going to be such a thing. Must be the high production value. (Not.)

So I had a beautiful lunch and went out to sit in the cacti and I couldn’t do it. My hands were shaking and I started to sweat. I started and stopped it five times. I couldn’t do it.

I never get scared to make videos or write. Except when I do. And when I do, it’s usually something that I have to do.

Like I always say, I am afraid I a lot. But I do it anyway. I buy my fear a cup of coffee (or wine) and show it how it’s done.

I thought that making a video about being back on my anti-depressants was like a who the f*ck cares? kind of thing. I mean, I am not curing cancer or saving babies. Who cares that I take meds? But after I shared that I was back on and I was not ashamed five people in five minutes came up to me to thank me.

I had hired a sound therapist to give a sound concert for the people at my retreat with Tibetan singing bowls and a gong. Her name is Fawntice Finesse and she’s magic. For real. Anyway. We went into the yoga studio for the concert. Everyone was lying on their mats with their eyes covered and their socks and I shot up. I knew I had to make the video. I quietly stepped over all the bodies as the sun was setting and, with still shaking arms, made the video below.

I am not ashamed of being on anti-depressants. This is not to create a debate about whether you should or should not be on meds. This is not to discuss which meds I am on or how many milligrams. This is to create an honest discussion about depression, about how it does not define us, about how we must do what it takes to get out of bed. How it does not define us. Just like if you have cancer, you are not your cancer. You are not your job. You are not your depression.

I remember when that essay of mine went viral. I made the mistake of reading a few comments before I realized I was never to do that again. Maybe you should reconsider leading “inspirational” retreats, lady? Maybe you should stop taking people’s money? Maybe you should do more yoga?

I never call my retreats inspirational just like I never call myself an inspiration. If someone says that about me, well, I have no say in that. I do my best to share about my own journey and to have a sense of humor. And to love. That’s it.

My workshops are not woo-woo although Kaisa McDonnall Coppola, from my Mother’s Day Retreat said this, “Loved loved loved the retreat. I can’t imagine how you even describe your retreats other than kumbaya-badassness-where we get to say ‘fuck’ out loud and in our journals. Thank you, Jen…you are sending out ripples of coolness all over the world.”

We do (a little) yoga, we share, we listen, we let the snot fly, we sing, we pay attention. I am certainly not preaching “Positive thinking.”

But there was a little part of me that was afraid that I was shooting myself in the foot by talking so openly about this stuff. I realized, however, that this was precisely why I had to share. I want to take the stigma away from this. I am not encouraging you to walk down the street vomiting your secrets or over-sharing. But I realize there is so much shame and misunderstanding surrounding mental health and depression that perhaps I would be doing a great disservice if I wasn’t forthcoming. After all, I am not ashamed, so why not speak of it?

I have been depressed since I can remember. Then my dad died and that nearly took the life out of me. I left NYU with one year left after being a scholar because of my severe depression and anorexia. And yet, I never did a damn thing about it. When I finally had another breakdown years later at the restaurant I had been working at for thirteen years, I finally went on anti-depressants.

And they saved my fucking life.

Did they make me “happy?”

No.

But they threw down a rope into the well I had been stuck in and I began to climb out, little by little. And my life changed. And I didn’t want to die anymore.

Cut to about a year and a half or two years ago. My life was “amazing” by any standards. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get pregnant but I knew I couldn’t with the particular meds I was taking so I began to ween off because hey, my life was amazing and I maybe wanted to have a baby. Maybe.

The truth: It was terrible being off. My life was amazing amazing amazing just look at her amazing life and yet, I couldn’t even get out of bed to brush my teeth. But still, I stayed off. I weened off slowly.

I would get hundreds of emails a day (yes, a day), and lead retreats and I had a great husband and yet.

I felt flat and like a nothing person.

All the amazingness does not matter when you have something chemically awry in your brain or you are dealing with depression. I don’t need to remind any of us of Robin Williams, do I?

I finally was completely weened off (I went very slowly as I couldn’t afford to go through any serious withdrawal.) The minute I was 100% clear of my meds, we tried to get pregnant. Once.

And it worked.

It was an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, and then, the pregnancy ended up being ectopic.

Here I am, off my meds. Pregnant and then no longer pregnant. I am slowly slipping father and farther drown the rabbit hole. Then, I break my foot.

You would have thought I was dying. It affected me so profoundly and I fell into possibly the darkest place I have ever been in. Continue Reading…

Binders, depression, Guest Posts

The Napkin Thief

March 31, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Ruth Deming

I’m not much of a thief. But to console myself during the five sad years of my marriage to the lately deceased Mike Deming, who gave me two beautiful children, I began to pilfer little things.  Can’t rightly remember if he ever knew of this. Probably not since we had a bad habit of not speaking.

Born in Texas, Mike took a job up in Ossining, New York, home of “Sing Sing” Prison. We lived on the top of a two-story furnished dump, with a lumpy bed where we forgot how to make love. He worked as a counselor at a bad boy’s school, founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, while I worked as a secretary at aryknoll Missioners, founded by Jesus Christ. I was the only Jew on the premises.

It was like working in a castle, an old castle in Scotland, with its stone walls and ringing footsteps when you walked down the corridors. Father Meehan was my boss, a dour thick-jowled man who would come into the secretary’s pool and say, “Take a letter, Mrs. Deming.”

But my favorite was Father Morgan O’Hara, who looked like Richard Burton, but instead of being a drunk, he had manic-depression. When his psychosis hit, you’d find him out in the parking lot jotting down license plate numbers. He was trying to solve the mystery of the universe, the great pastime of all successful manic-depressives, myself included. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Dear Life., depression, Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Self-Medicate! What Should I Do?

January 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Shannon Brugh, whose previous essay on the site did phenomenally! 

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little.

Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd 2015 Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Sep 26-Oct 3, 2015

Dear Life,

I have gone through hell and back since I was born. I will save you the gory details and tell you that I am about to be 27 and have finally arrived at the most peaceful place, spiritually speaking, that I have ever been. But as I am finding peace in my work, family and friendships, a new career opportunity suddenly presented itself. I have been a bartender for the past eight years and, after graduating from college, am trying to move on to a more secure career that is conducive to raising a family. Two days ago I received an email for a lead on a job as a liquor rep in center city Philadelphia. I live about an hour from there currently but lived there for three years during my undergrad. I am perfect for this job. 100%.  But one requirement is that I must submit to a drug test prior to being hired. I have suffered from severe anxiety, depression, OCD and PMDD for at least the past ten years and smoking pot has significantly relieved my symptoms. I am nervous that if I get a call for an interview in the next couple weeks, I would definitely not pass the test. What do I do?? I am a good hearted, intelligent and motivated young woman. I have spent time in Rwanda. I want to save the world. I know I would be an asset to any company in the world, but I smoke pot to relax. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

thank you, J

Ps… That was a complete free flow of thought. I apologize if it was long-winded.

Continue Reading…

Dear Life., depression, Guest Posts

Dear Life: That Happened To You? F*ck That, That’s The Worst!

January 5, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Eva Hagberg, who is attending my Writing + The Body retreat in a couple weeks with author Lidia Yuknavitch! I am so excited to meet Eva, especially after reading this.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Vancouver in a couple weeks! My first workshop there! 

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Dear Life,

I’m writing this to ask for some help….guidance, advice, maybe a miracle, anything to help this lost little girl (actually 35 and feeling old already) find her way.

Jen Pastiloff’s quote “Live with intention, with love, and with passion…” really struck me-mostly because I’m NOT doing that, I don’t know what makes me come alive or thrive(?) I’m 35 and feel like I’m barely getting by, existing. I’m trying to make a change in my life right now so that come 40 I won’t be on the same, no light at the end of the tunnel road.
You seem to have such a spark and are so connected to what you do and what you love and are so HAPPY! I want that.

I’m trying to reverse years of negative thought patterns and a long long battle with depression. It’s kind of like trying to stir cement as it begins to harden, not easy.

I need to move as I’m not in a great situation and am so torn over WHERE???? It really shouldn’t be that hard but I feel like at my age I can’t “F” it up again if you know what I mean? The couple places I’ve thought about are completely different. I’ve pro’d and con’d them to death and meditated and prayed and I just don’t know what to do.

Did I mention indecisiveness is a strong point of mine :-/

I don’t want to ramble on because I know you are crazy busy and actually hoping you might have time to read this was a long shot, but I desperately need some help getting this weight off my chest and a better life going.

Any response would be greatly appreciated!! Even if it’s just some prayers. I feel depressed, stuck and confused. Where do I begin?

Thank you!

Love,
Barbara Continue Reading…